The US opioid crisis is associated with a surge in hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections among persons who inject drugs (PWID), and yet the uptake of HCV curative therapy among PWID is low.
To explore potential solutions to overcome barriers to HCV treatment uptake among individuals at a drug detoxification center.
Qualitative study with in-depth interviews and thematic analysis of coded data.
Patients (N = 24) had the following characteristics: mean age 37 years; 67 % White, 13 % Black, 8 % Latinx, 4 % Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 8 % other; 71 % with a history of injecting drugs. Most patients with a positive HCV test had not pursued treatment due to few perceived immediate consequences from a positive test and possible complications arising in a distant poorly imagined future. Active substance use was a major barrier to HCV treatment uptake because of disruptions to routine activities. In addition, re-infection after treatment was perceived as inevitable. Patients had suggestions to improve HCV treatment uptake: high-intensity wraparound care characterized by frequent interactions with supportive services; same-day/walk-in options; low-barrier access to substance use treatment; assistance with navigating the health care system; attention to immediate needs, such as housing; and the opportunity to select an approach that best fits individual circumstances.
Active substance use was a major barrier to treatment initiation. To improve uptake, affected individuals recommended that HCV treatment be integrated within substance use treatment programs. Such a model should incorporate patient education within low-barrier, high-intensity wraparound care, tailored to patients’ needs and priorities.